US

Custody case judge shot dead in driveway ‘in targeted attack’

A manhunt is under way after a Maryland judge was shot and killed in his driveway – hours after he granted custody of a suspect’s children to their mother. 

Pedro Argote, 49, is wanted in connection with the death of Judge Andrew Wilkinson, who was gunned down outside his home in what police have called a “targeted attack”.

A $10,000 (£8,224) reward has been offered for information leading to Argote’s arrest.

Mr Wilkinson, a Washington County circuit court judge, was found dead on Thursday night outside his house in the Maryland city of Hagerstown.

His wife and son were home when he was shot, local sheriff Brian K. Albert said in a news conference.

He said a local resident had found an SUV belonging to Argote on Saturday morning and police were combing the woods in the surrounding area.

“We’re going to catch this guy, it’s just a matter of time,” he added.

Mr Wilkinson was the judge in Argote’s divorce case.

At a hearing on Thursday morning, hours before the shooting, he granted Argote’s wife an absolute divorce from him, as well as sole legal custody of their four children.

He also ordered Argote to have no contact with the children and pay $1,120 (£922) a month in child support.

Mr Albert said the shooting was in response to the custody decision.

Argote did not attend the hearing.

Pedro Argote, suspected of shooting judge Andrew Wilkinson. Pic: Washington County Sheriff's Office/AP)
Image:
Pedro Argote, suspected of shooting judge Andrew Wilkinson. Pic: Washington County Sheriff’s Office/AP

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In June 2022, Argote’s wife filed a domestic violence petition alleging he had physically abused one of their daughters, Sky News’ US partner NBC News reported.

She wrote that she felt unsafe because Argote would keep a weapon on him and said she feared he would try to take the children away from her.

She also accused him of harassing her through emails and texts, watching her through the home’s security cameras and controlling her emotionally and financially. The petition was dismissed less than two weeks after she filed it.

Lawyer Michael Gast, who briefly represented Argote in the case, said on Saturday that he persuaded the wife’s lawyer to dismiss the petition because Mr Gast felt there was a lack of evidence.

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